The Bible clearly teaches that Christians shouldn’t eat blood*. I know this may come as a shock since you haven’t heard red faced preachers blasting the sins of black pudding, Christian radio programming talk shows delving into a repentant Christian turning away from eating blood sausage, or Facebook rants proclaiming a slippery slope and the fall of American dietary immorality due to the introduction of an enzyme from cow’s blood used to glue food (such as in Chicken Nuggets).
In fact, if you were to think of religions that prohibit eating blood, you will most likely find at the top of the list Judaism, Islam, and Jehovah Witnesses but not mainstream Protestants or Catholics (although Greek Orthodox does prohibit it-maybe they are reading their Bibles more closely). Most people with general familiarity with the Bible know that God prohibited eating blood in the Law (Lev 3:17, 7:25-26, 17:10-14, 19:26, Duet 12:15, 12:22-23 and 15:23) however it is not only found there. It is found before the Law in God’s covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:4) and in the New Testament in the Apostolic Decree Acts 15:19-21. The Apostolic Decree came out of the Jerusalem Counsel because there was a huge disagreement on whether or not the new Gentile Christians had to follow the Mosaic Law, especially regarding circumcision (you can understand why that might have bothered some of the newly converted Gentile males). What the apostles and elders decided was that they ask Gentile Christians to abstain from idols, fornication, meat from animals that have been strangled and from blood. By the way, this was after Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-24 in case you thought that that gave you permission to eat what ever you wanted.
So the big question is if the Bible is so clear on not eating blood, the Gentile Christians were commanded not to eat blood, why do most Christians not really think it’s a big deal? Paul stated in I Corinthians 10:25-33 to eat whatever was sold in the meat market or served at a home without asking questions, unless one was told it was offered to idols for the sake of the other person’s conscience. But why would Paul’s statement to the Corinthians, trump all of the apostles’ including Paul’s original statement in Acts? Remember last week’s blog “Do Evangelical’s Follow Tradition?” Tradition is a big reason why. The early church fathers including St. Augustine concluded that the reason that the apostles came up with the original practice was because the first Christians and especially the Jerusalem Christians where the counsel was held were mostly Jewish. For them, the thought of sitting down with other people who were eating blood would have probably been revolting, therefore the more loving act would have been to abstain from eating blood, Later on, in Corinth, where the population was largely Gentile, this ceased to be an issue, and as Christianity became a more and more Gentile based religion, the prohibition on eating blood faded away.
This is the crux of the issue. The way the church has largely interpreted commands is through the lens of love. Jesus said “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40) This is why most Christians feel free to eat blood in countries where this is common and also feel free to have men grow long hair, women to go with their head uncovered, and wear jewelry. Whether an act is loving or not is used to interpret whether a command is cultural or universal. It may be loving to abstain from a food when with a group who find it revolting, while eating that food when served by people who have lovingly prepared it for you (no matter how revolting you may personally find it). When moral issues are looked at, the filter should be “Is this loving to God and my neighbor?” With the filter of love, we are no longer just following rules, but have both freedom in Christ and a moral compass to guide us through life’s difficult choices.
*This is said facetiously since it is a huge pet peeve of mine when people take on a hugely controversial subject with the line “the Bible clearly states…:”